An Eagle Scout candidate is to research and select a meaningful project, develop the idea, meet with adults, secure approvals, develop a plan, engage people to help carry out the plan, provide leadership, be accountable for the overall success of the project and — above all — complete the task at hand. This undertaking is most likely the biggest effort of a young Scout’s life.
As an Eagle Scout service project coordinator for the Mustang District of Sam Houston Area Council, Assistant Scoutmaster John Wallace reviews hundreds of service project applications for approval. He also reviews service project award applications in the Southern Region for the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.
Wallace has seen quite a few successful service project proposals — along with quite a few not-so-successful ones. Even if you’re not an Eagle Scout service project coordinator, you can help your troop’s future Eagle Scouts maximize the potential of their Eagle Scout service projects. Share with them Wallace’s tips for success:
Start with the right perspective.
The Eagle Scout service project is not about what Scouts are physically able to do, but about the leadership that the candidate develops and demonstrates. The Eagle candidate is the one holding the clipboard, not the hammer.
Through the process of completing the Eagle Scout service project, a Scout’s efforts to be fully prepared and responsible for every aspect of his project will lead him to a successful conclusion. A Scout’s perseverance will certainly be tested, but encourage him to approach the tasks with these things in mind.
Make the project personal.
Eagle Scout candidates select a project beneficiary, meet with a representative of that organization and then work together to devise a good project.
Here is where many Scouts fall short, Wallace says. When encouraging Scouts on the path to Eagle, ask them to do a little soul searching. Is there a particular cause that is of interest to the Scout or his family? By choosing an organization that benefits this cause, a Scout’s service project takes on a much deeper meaning.
Personalization of a project will result in a Scout having a greater sense of pride in his achievement that will stay with him for years to come.
Go beyond the workbook.
The BSA has provided the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook as a template for a successful service project. Eagle Scout candidates are required to use the workbook.
Wallace suggests Scouts treat the workbook template like a scrapbook and add photos of the project before, during and after completion; maps of the area; correspondence with the team; a time and service hour log; detailed budget and fundraising records; and “anything else you might need to tell the story of your project to someone,” he says.
“A Scout should think of the workbook as a scrapbook that records the history of his achievement,” Wallace says.
Meet with your coach often.
One of the best benefits of the service project process is the experience Scouts gain by interacting with adults. Encourage Scouts to meet with their project coach throughout the service project.
This person should be someone a Scout can work side by side with, who will help the Scout organize and plan the project details, and who will provide the Scout with appropriate advice on his project all along the way.
Don’t skip public fundraising, if needed.
Fundraising for an Eagle Scout service project is not required of Eagle Scout candidates. In fact, the Guide to Advancement (18.104.22.168) states, “the BSA prefers, in fact, that Scouts choose projects that can be done at little or no costs.”
If fundraising is needed, however, it should be used “only for securing materials and otherwise facilitating a project.”
Scouts do have the option to tap the project beneficiary, parents, relatives or members of a unit for contributions without the need to complete the Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising Application. If fundraising takes place, Eagle Scout candidates must also be allowed the choice to not be involved in it.
Wallace states that Scouts can learn vital real-world skills by turning to the public for fundraising support.
Plenty of Eagle Scouts use online crowd-funding websites or apps to raise money, such as GoFundMe.com. Whatever the preferred method (in person, direct mail or online crowdfunding), raising funds to support a project’s necessary materials is not beyond a Scout’s abilities.
Share your project with the public.
An Eagle Scout service project should warrant some kind of public mention, either in the community newspaper, a church bulletin or publication of the beneficiary. Wallace says he has even seen a city council issue a public proclamation that commends an Eagle Scout project.
Remind Scouts there is no project too small to bring the community together for a public ceremony or ribbon cutting to celebrate its completion. This type of public exposure certainly helps raise the profile of Scouting in general, and it feels great for this Eagle Scout candidate to get some public recognition.
The project may foreshadow a Scout’s future.
Ask your troop’s future Eagle Scouts: Why is the Eagle Scout service project required?
Wallace says he gets lots of different answers to this question: giving back to the community, leadership experience and organizational skills are the general responses.
The big-picture takeaway, in Wallace’s opinion, is that Scouts should understand that the service project — while sometimes overwhelming — has an end.
The Eagle Scout service project is only the first of many significant projects Scouts will encounter in their lives ahead. Great ideas, planning, research, organization, fundraising, recruiting and hard work are all just steps in the process.
Get inspired by the Eagle Scout service projects featured at eagleprojects.boyslife.org